The bedsheet of time. A theory.


over the past few years… possibly 5 of them, I’ve been thinking about fate. The concept of it, because it appeals to me. I’ve blogged about it before, tho where I know not. But regulars readers may well catch echoes of deja vu, sorry about that. I make no apologies for this (you just have mark) .. so I have..

but anyways… I been thinking about it a lot, because its a theory that sits comfortable in my head. And I tend to go through life, piecing things together that sit comfortably in my head. Its the only way to live imo.

Anyways I’ve pretty much formulated a theory which I’m happy with. I can quote it on request at depth, and convince most people that either its a possible concept or I’m completely deluded and should be institutionalised. (heads you win, tails you win)

But the other day I had a thought in the car. It was about ‘time’ and how it could exist in my head in a way that I could feel comfortable with. Now, if I chat to people, generally I give the impression that I don’t think in shapes and colours and other various visuals…. this is still true… because as a friend of mine questioned… ‘so if I say the word ‘breasts’ to you, you don’t visualise a pair of breasts?’ … which I don’t… I just hear the word ‘breasts’ and don’t visualise anything… odd for a visual man like myself you may think that’s employed for his visual donations to the graphical and web world. I agree.

This approach appears to change for me when I need to understand something difficult (like ‘time’) … then I _do_ need to break it down into visuals.

Sooo… I thought for a bit and decided ‘time’ looks like a rectangle white bedsheet in my head. Held out tight at 4 corners so I can see the whole shape. I like the idea of time being big and white and open like that. I then pictured one side (the left) as being time past, and the right being time future. This felt nice to me… so I went with it. I then needed to place ‘me’ on the timeline… and I would represent the ‘present’, I figured the best way to do this was by feeding the white bedsheet through a napkin ring, or a bobble that the scouts would use to tie their neckerchiefs etc. I like the idea of a metal silver napkin ring though. Because it’ll slide nicely left and right across the bedsheet timeline between the past and the future.

So hopefully you’re still with me. I have a white bedsheet with the corners held out tight, wide and open and a napkin ring in the midde of the sheet pulling the sheet (of time) into a ‘point’ which I’ll refer to as the ‘present’. The napkin ring is me. Where I am in time. I like the idea of pulling this time sheet together visually because I know me (mark) can only experience ‘time’ in that moment. No matter how wide or universal time can be for everyone, for me, I can only experience that one moment. Nothing more or less, therefore I have to visually represent that as something small on the sheet. And the ring does it nicely.

If I slide the ring towards the far left (past) end. I minimise the (my) past to a point and emphasise the future to the maximum. The only time in my life I would have experienced this is during my birth, childhood and youth years. Where by, I have very little, or no past to weigh me down* and a aparently infinite future ahead of me. And likewise… if I slide the ring all the way to the right (future), representing the past is all behind me and there is very limited future left in my life. Both these positions in time represent a triangle or pyramid either pointing to the left or the right, depending at which point in time I happen to be at. This again sits lovely in my head, because people are always asking silly questions and making statements about ‘whats the point of life?’ etc. When to me, ‘the point’ of life is very real and visual only when we start life (as a newborn) or end life (as a pensioner?) when either the whole of ourlives are in front of us, or the whole of our lives is behind us.

tho, I’m not going to expand on that thought, because it is described fully in my fate theory (to be presented here at another time).

If you’re confused about my visual of time, then I guess I haven’t explained it fully enough, and explained all the other ‘life’ theories in my head that reinforce it. Sorry about that, but I guess there is a lot more to come, if you’re patient/interested enough.

ok I think I’m done. I just wanted to get that one out (of my head). To make room for all the other thoughts I’m having atm. Right I’m done here, time to go sniff some book pages in Waterstones.

mark πŸ™‚

*I did at one stage picture time past as a bag slung over my shoulder that I am carrying, and weighing me down the older I got with dates, events and memories throughout my life.

Note: I’ve just read this through and am not happy about the way its trails off without a conclusion or more depth to the ‘shapes’ of time that I’m describing. This just highlights to me that I need to get off my arse and finalise my ‘fate theory’ sharpish like, otherwise I’m going to look like a wet doughnut in a chickens tea party.

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4 thoughts on “The bedsheet of time. A theory.

  1. Mark – I’m developing my own theory about this at the moment:

    Abstract concepts such as ‘space’ and ‘time’ are impossible for us to understand in a concrete way unless we conceptualise them metaphorically. The metaphor you use is one of a napkin and a napkin ring which seems to be functional for the purpose you require (i.e. making sense of your life). For some reason we generally conceive of ‘time’ as a linear entity which both spans behind and in front of us. So we think of it as a journey between A and B, hence the phrases ‘running out of time’ ‘journey of life’ etc. This metaphor of time being linear is just a convention – we could have chosed to represent time as something completely different. Time has to be a wholly social construction and is dependent on memory of a past and an ability to predict or antipate the future. Time does not exist for things like rocks or planets or tables or dead people. And when you get into quantum theory that’s when time gets really weird because suddenly the old metaphors don’t work and you have to find new ones. For instance, the experience of time slowing down or speeding up around you. What I find amazing to think about is when we look up at the stars at night, we are directly looking at the past. The star that we see is so far away that at ‘that’ moment in time it might no longer exist and yet for us it is there plain to see. So the further we look into space, the futher we look into the past – which is totally mindboggling. My question for you is if you conceive of time as a napkin then what exists beyond that napkin? Is it a timeless zone? Is that napkin just the duration of your life – if so, what about time experienced by other people?

  2. I have a thought that appears in my head at this moment. I don’t know whether it fits, sits or is one that I’m comfortable with. But here goes:

    picture me standing with a spear impaled through my chest. the arrow head end represents the future, and the half behind me represents the past. No matter which way I walk or turn, ‘my’ future and past is always consistent and relative to me and me only. I can neither get ahead of it nore get behind it. Now replace that impaled image of me with a long thin seed. one end is my past and the other is my future. Throw thousands (billions?) of the seeds on the ground. This how I see time for everyone else. Each seed representing a person and time relative to their direction.

    this thought stems from us all being unique. I hate the way its implied that because we all have 2 legs, eyes, arms and the rest of it… that we’re all the ‘same’.. physically maybe, but beyond that is anyones guess. We all have a unique view on the world, have varying opinions on everything and have a mental quest that rarely (if at all (accurately)) matches anyone else on the planet.

    This sits nicely in my head, because certain people get on well when they meet and certain people don’t. Some people get on fine for a while and then stop getting along well. People drift in and out of our lives and some stay for years. There appears to be no pattern. Which is fine by me, because I see our ‘time’ as flowing in different directions and over lapping each other like the seeds on the ground.

    I think that covers your ‘Is that napkin just the duration of your life – if so, what about time experienced by other people?’ question.

    Regarding the other 2:

    ‘if you conceive of time as a napkin then what exists beyond that napkin? Is it a timeless zone?’

    for me time can only be attached to a entity that requires a measurement for its lifespan… if there is no entity/element requiring a gauge, then time won’t exist for it… yet time will naturally continue for everything else that exists. (based on my ‘seed’ idea of time)

    eg: an animal experiences time for ten years until it dies, then time stops for it. It becomes a fossil and a million years later someone digs it up. To the dead animal, there still isn’t a ‘time’… even tho for the rest of the planet and its inhabitants, time has clearly continued.

    Likewise, something massive like our solar system, may only exist for a coupla hundred billion light years (or summat similar) … but that time is only relative to all the other solar systems, so when its lifespan is burnt out, it ceases…. and maybe in a quintaginal drillion light shavings in the future some other entity with a longer life span may ‘dig up’ our dead solar system in a fossilised format and so on and so forth.

    (this also fits nicely with your view of stars and the lightwave echo’s we see of them… the light is travelling relative to the solar system not our own personal time)

    This might not make much sense tho, I haven’t thought about it much. I’m dead rusty at hengrove… I need to skate that place a bit more.

  3. Apparently Native Americans perceive of the past in front of them and the future behind them on the grounds that you can see your past and you can’t see your future. I suppose the best metaphor for that would be standing in a river looking downstream so that the river represents the inevitability of time, the water that has passed through you, and that which you are seeing, is the past whilst the water behind you is the future. That, I think is a much better metaphor than time being a journey where you can see where you are going. It takes into account the way that the passing of time is regardless of whether you are moving in any direction or whether you simply stand still – you can’t stop the passing of time in the same way that you can’t stand in the same water in the river. The peices of wood and flotsam that float past represent your memories which generally become harder to ‘see’ the further down the river they have travelled (unless they happen to get stuck in an eddy or on the bank which is the same for strong memories that you have). You don’t know what bits and peices are coming down the river because you’re not facing that way, in the same way that you don’t know what memories you will have in the future.
    Does that metaphor sound reasonable? I think it’s a pretty good one (and will have to remember it in the future!)

  4. It does sound a good metaphor. One I’ve not considered before, thanks for sharing it. Tho its hard to accept personally because of all the other elements of (my) thought that go together build theories of life. I’m sure they have many other thoughts which substantiate their river theory. Our traditional thought of past being behind us, probably (I’m guessing) comes from the fact that choices, which we haven’t yet made, are unlimited and infinite (tho I don’t really agree with that) … giving the impression, that the future is unwritten, directionless and absent of (yet lived) experiences but full of unreached opportunities. The thought that we don’t know our future or can see it, doesn’t sit comfortable in my head. I’m very aware of my future and see lots and lots of it easily. I’m of the opinion that people who claim the future is unwritten for them, haven’t explored their own thoughts very well. Or like the idea that their lifes choices random… which reminds me.. I’ve never thought the idea of us having ‘free will’ made much sense.

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